SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. 7/07/06 -- -- Six recently deployed Team Scott Airmen were selected to meet with President George W. Bush while he visited Missouri June 28.
“We got a call from the White House requesting that the President speak to some of our servicemembers who recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Capt. Anthony Cooper, chief of U.S. Transportation Command Public Affairs. “He wanted to have a frank discussion with them about all they had done for this country and thank them for their service.”
The Team Scott Airmen chosen to participate included Maj. Joshua Kovich, Air Mobility Command; Capt. William Roberts, AMC; Tech. Sgt. John Jefferson, 375th Contracting Squadron; Staff Sgt. Todd Carlton, 375th Security Force Squadron; Senior Airman Joe Mata, 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron and Airman 1st Class Rebecca Blascak, 375th LRS.
In addition to Scott’s Airman, President Bush also met with two Army Reservists and two Illinois Army National Guard members.
President Bush sat among the servicemembers during the discussion, which took place at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3944 in Overland, Mo. and lasted approximately 40 minutes.
He said to the troops that he nation "stands with people who are defending our nation. We're with you. We know the work is hard, but the work is necessary...the world is going to be better off because of your courageous service, and I thank you for it," he said.
For the servicemembers, the meeting was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“It was an outstanding experience,” said Airman Blascak. “He was very professional, and at the same time made us all feel very comfortable, because we were a little nervous. It was just such an honor to be chosen to meet with him,” she said. “It really made me proud to be in the armed forces.”
Captain Roberts was also honored to be a part of the meeting and said, “This event underscored the President’s support for our Armed Services. The opportunity to hear directly from the President the importance and far reaching consequences of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, his vision for the future, his rationale for the administration’s actions along with the historical parallels and analogies was tremendously insightful and inspiring. This was simply an unmatched opportunity...I will always remember it.”
The servicemembers’ families were also invited and all posed for photographs with the President following the meeting.
“Before his departure, the servicemembers received a coin from the President and their children all got presidential M & Ms’,” said Captain Cooper. “It was a great experience for everyone involved.”
For Sergeant Jefferson, he has had the opportunity to meet with two high government officials in the last few months.
“I met the Vice President on his visit (to Scott in the spring) and now the President. I received a coin from each.
“It (the President’s visit) was the opportunity of a lifetime for my family and me,” he said.
“It shows he really has a heart for the troops.”
Before he left, President Bush talked about the significance role servicemembers play in maintaining America’s freedoms.
"I told these men and women that their service is necessary for the security of the United States of America, and that they're serving in historic times," President Bush said of his meeting. "And one day their children will be able to look back and say, my dad, or my mom went to Iraq and Afghanistan and helped a young country become a democracy and therefore the world is more peaceful for it."
**Contributions from Donna Miles of the American Forces Press Service are included in this article.**